Les Mistons, aka The Mischief Makers, was Francois Truffaut’s second film and the one that established him as an emerging talent. It’s a warm and funny look at an unruly group of boys enjoying their summer holiday while experiencing their first strong feelings of sexual arousal. And it’s all thanks to the radiance of Bernadette Lafont, ogled while bathing, playing tennis, frolicking in meadows, and riding her bike through the streets of provincial Nimes. (Yes, that’s a screencap of one rascal smelling her seat.)
This film, along with two other independent 16mm shorts–Jacques Rivette’s Le Coup du berger (1956) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Tous les garcons s’appellent Patrick (1957)–is one of the very first films of the French New Wave. As a sign of things to come, Les Mistons is youthful, energetic, and feels spontaneous. It was also filmed on location, employs handheld camerawork and non-actors, and concerns the very French pursuits of smoking, riffing on classic movies, and waxing poetic about beautiful women.